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Effects of context on the neural correlates of attention in a college classroom.


Activities that are effective in supporting attention have the potential to increase opportunities for student learning. However, little is known about the impact of instructional contexts on student attention, in part due to limitations in our ability to measure attention in the classroom, typically based on behavioral observation and self-reports. To address this issue, we used portable electroencephalography (EEG) measurements of neural oscillations to evaluate the effects of learning context on student attention. The results suggest that attention, as indexed by lower alpha power as well as higher beta and gamma power, is stronger during student-initiated activities than teacher-initiated activities. EEG data revealed different patterns in student attention as compared to standardized coding of attentional behaviors. We conclude that EEG signals offer a powerful tool for understanding differences in student cognitive states as a function of classroom instruction that are unobservable from behavior alone.

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